13 May 2011

Time to Travel -- Where’s My GPS?

Welcome back. In March, my wife, Vicki, drove about 1800 miles, soloing from Virginia to Wisconsin and back, one day each way. Whew!
Vicki’s bachelor’s degree was in geography. To guide her drive, I generated and annotated a stack of Google maps. At the almost-last minute, I also bought her a vehicle GPS (Global Positioning System).

I figured the GPS would keep her company in addition to telling her when and in what direction to turn, in the accent of her choice. (I bet she chose British; she worked in London for two years.)

Picking a GPS

It was a rush and there are too many GPS devices to choose from, with too many options. Luckily, I’d selected one as a gift for our son, Noah, a few months earlier. For both Noah and Vicki, I went with a package that included the GPS plus accessories (identified here for reference and completeness). 

We bought Noah a GPS because

(1) he’s always going somewhere,

(2) he detests traffic and seeks alternative routes, and

(3) he has this thing about maps--“Just tell me how to get there.” Who needs a map if you can call or text your friends or mother (after pulling off the road of course)?

Traffic could be rough on this two-way (yes, two-way)
street in Bangladesh, 1981.
The Response?

Noah loves the GPS. He still calls or texts from the road, but at least he can get where he’s going if no one responds.

Vicki loves the GPS. Being a geographer at heart, she was happy to have the maps along for a broader perspective. She found the GPS was wrong at one intersection outside of Chicago, but later, wasn’t sure if she or the GPS was in error.

A final vote came from my daughter, Rachel, who has had a GPS for her freelance business for years and loves it. She sometimes argues with the GPS, when it tries to send her on a shortcut that isn’t really a shortcut. Ultimately, the GPS yields and goes away to sulk and recalculate.
Taking a shortcut slowed the UN team in northwestern China.
Why’d We Wait So Long?

You probably bought a GPS a week after the GPS satellites were launched. Prior to Vicki’s trip, we had no real need for one. Well, that’s not entirely true.

Vicki does have a GPS that wraps around her wrist and tracks how far and fast she’s running or how to get home when she simply couldn’t resist a new trail. It also monitors her heart rate and calories burned, which I could use when I drive. 

And I suppose that I should have a GPS with me at all times. Unlike my father, who always knew intuitively where he was and which way to go, I’m directionally challenged. If I drive somewhere new, the return drive is a whole new world. Heck, if I go into a building, exiting can be enlightening.

My mother always said, “You’ll never get lost if you have a voice.” I’m not sure if she meant ask directions or scream. 

Wrap Up

I’ll join Vicki on her next jaunt to Wisconsin. Although I’ve worked with people of many nationalities, the drive will be the first time I’m told where to go by a Briton. And I’ll be most grateful

During a UN project in Syria, 1983, my Australian CSIRO colleague (white shirt) took the lead in rescuing our Syrian counterparts’ vehicle.
Thanks for stopping by. I’ll write again in about a week.

1 comment:

  1. I broke down and bought a GPS after missing the same exit ramp while in Blacksburg over spring break- I am not as good at night driving. After much research, I got a Garmin nuvi (cheaper in the store than on-line) Best price for the time being because my next phone will be some type of DROID- which is what the 2 big kids have-"Oh mom.....I just put it in my droid!"
    And yes- the Brit is the favorite voice, although testing the foreign languages was fun.
    I love maps-but the GPS has already paid for itself during our trip to North Carolina. (Cassy's mom- aka- Cathy